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Take-up of Medicare Part D: Results From the Health and Retirement Study

  • Helen Levy
  • David R. Weir

We analyze data from the Health and Retirement Study on senior citizens' take-up of Medicare Part D. Take-up among those without drug coverage in 2004 was high; about fifty to sixty percent of this group have Part D coverage in 2006. Only seven percent of senior citizens lack drug coverage in 2006 compared with 24 percent in 2004. We find little circumstantial evidence that Part D crowded out private coverage in the short run, since the persistence of employer coverage was only slightly lower in 2004 -- 2006 than it was in 2002 -- 2004. We find that demand for prescription drugs is the most important determinant of the decision to enroll in Part D among those with no prior coverage. Many of those who remained without coverage in 2006 reported that they do not use prescribed medicines, and the majority had relatively low out-of-pocket spending. Thus, for the most part, Medicare beneficiaries seem to have been able to make economically rational decisions about Part D enrollment despite the complexity of the program. We also find that Part D erased socioeconomic gradients in drug coverage among the elderly.

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File URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10.1093/geronb/gbp107
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Article provided by Gerontological Society of America in its journal Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

Volume (Year): 65B (2010)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
Pages: 492-501

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Handle: RePEc:oup:geronb:v:65b:y:2010:i:4:p:492-501
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  1. Florian Heiss & Daniel McFadden & Joachim Winter, 2010. "Mind the Gap! Consumer Perceptions and Choices of Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Plans," NBER Chapters, in: Research Findings in the Economics of Aging, pages 413-481 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Blundell, Richard & Fry, Vanessa & Walker, Ian, 1987. "Modelling the Take-up of Means-tested Benefits: the Case of Housing Benefits in the United Kingdom," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 98(390), pages 58-74, Supplemen.
  3. Town, Robert & Liu, Su, 2003. " The Welfare Impact of Medicare HMOs," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 34(4), pages 719-36, Winter.
  4. Todd E. Elder & Elizabeth T. Powers, 2004. "SSI for the Aged and the Problem of 'Take-Up'," Working Papers wp076, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  5. Robert Town Albert Yung-Hsu Liu, 2003. "The Welfare Impact of Medicare HMOs," Mathematica Policy Research Reports b1604dfa628e4a8c9c751a4ef, Mathematica Policy Research.
  6. Todd Elder & Elizabeth Powers, 2006. "Public Health Insurance and SSI Program Participation Among the Aged," Working Papers wp117, University of Michigan, Michigan Retirement Research Center.
  7. Mark Duggan & Patrick Healy & Fiona Scott Morton, 2008. "Providing Prescription Drug Coverage to the Elderly: America's Experiment with Medicare Part D," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 69-92, Fall.
  8. Kathleen McGarry, 1996. "Factors Determining Participation of the Elderly in Supplemental Security Income," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(2), pages 331-358.
  9. Heiss, Florian & McFadden, Daniel L. & Winter, Joachim, 2006. "Who failed to enroll in Medicare Part D, and why? Early results," Munich Reprints in Economics 19427, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
  10. John A. List, 2002. "Preference Reversals of a Different Kind: The "More Is Less" Phenomenon," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1636-1643, December.
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